Happy Halloween + Flies’ Graveyard

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Happy Halloween! This is my favorite, favorite holiday, and I’m so excited. We did go out last Saturday, when it was pouring rain, and today we are waking up to snow, so… welcome to Halloween in the Midwest.

Today we’re going to talk a little bit about the origins of Halloween in the United States, many of which we owe to ancient traditions in Ireland and Scotland. The origins of Halloween can be traced back to the pre-Christian Gaelic festival of Samhain, or summer’s end. While Samhain was determined by the end of the harvest, it was also known as a time when feasts were held for dead loved ones, and the spirits of the Otherworld could enter this world. Because of this belief, bonfires were a common part of a Samhain celebration, as they were thought to protect humans and ward off any evil spirits who crossed the boundary.

Because fire was regarded as protective, in Ireland, root vegetables were carved–mostly turnips in Scotland–into faces, and a light was placed inside to ward off evil spirits. Still used today, the name Jack O’Lantern comes from an Irish legend about a man named “Stingy Jack,” a drunk with such a bad reputation that the devil himself sought him out. According to some variations of the story, Jack twice tricked the devil into buying him food and drink, both times escaping the devil’s plans for him. Tricking the devil again by striking a deal that he would never be taken to Hell, Jack lived to old age. However, at his death, he was turned away from the gates of Heaven for his bad lifestyle. He then attempted to enter Hell, but was also turned away, the devil now keeping his promise to never take him. So Stingy Jack is forced to wander the netherworld for eternity, with only an ember inside of a turnip to light his way.

Even trick-or-treating has its origins in Samhain. Known as “mumming” or “guising,” the practice involved people dressing in costume and going door to door to receive treats. It’s said that the disguises were worn in an attempt to walk among the supernatural beings who had entered the world through the weakened threshold. Later, this became a practice for children, who would go door to door, sometimes performing songs or tricks in exchange for treats or coins.

Over time, with the arrival of Christianity, the celebrations of Samhain began to meld with All Hallow’s Eve, which was the night before the celebration of All Saints’ Day on November 1st. Halloween traditions gained traction in the United States with the mass arrival of Irish and Scottish immigrants in the 19th century.

In honor of the festival of Samhain, today’s recipe is a treat from Britain often called a fruit slice, but alternatively known by the ghoulish name, “flies’ graveyard.” (Maybe Halloween is the only day I could get away with making such a gross and peculiar dessert. Halloween is good for so many reasons.) This dessert, also known as a flies’ cemetery, is called such because the filling, which is usually composed of currants or raisins, looks like dead flies caught in a trap. Yum.

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Flies Graveyard
Makes 9-16 squares.

Ingredients:
For pastry: 1 3/4 cups flour, plus more for rolling dough
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
3/4 tsp lemon zest
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg

For filling: 2 1/4 cups cranberries
1 1/4 cup dark raisins
1/3 cup water
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp, plus 2 tsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp lemon zest
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla

For top of pastry: 1 egg
1 tbsp milk or cream
2 tsp sugar

Instructions: 

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, salt, and baking soda.

Add butter and sugar to a large bowl and beat until very smooth and almost completely white in color, about five minutes.

Add the lemon zest, vanilla, and egg, and beat until just incorporated.

Add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture in three batches, beating each batch until it’s just incorporated.

After you’ve added all the flour, begin pulling the mixture together. Divide in half. Form both portions into a disk. Wrap the two disks with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 1/2 hours, or as long as overnight.

Place the cranberries into a food processor (you can also chop by hand). Buzz a few times until the cranberries are in smaller pieces, but not yet purified. Add the raisins (if using a food processor) and buzz just a time or two to slightly break up the raisins. Add both to a heavy bottomed saucepan. To the saucepan, add water, sugar, flour, lemon juice, lemon zest, and salt. Mix together and then bring to a boil over medium heat, for about 15 minutes total cook time. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Allow to cool to room temperature.

While the filling is cooling, roll out one of the disks 1/8-inch thick and place in the bottom of a 8 x 8-inch pan. Gently press to fit the pan, and cut an edge about 1 centimeter up the sides of the pan. Fill this pastry with the cooled filling and spread smooth.

Roll the second disk 1/8-inch thick. Lay it over the pastry filling. Cut the edges off and gently press to the bottom pastry edges to seal it.

Beat the egg with the heavy cream and brush it over the top. Sprinkle with sugar.

Place the pastry in the freezer as you preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the top is golden brown.

Allow to cool completely before cutting and serving.

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For my version of this flies’ graveyard, I used a combination of cranberries and raisins–and fly’s eyes, newt’s noses, frog’s ears, and whatever else was on sale during October.

What are you doing for Halloween this year? Do you have kiddies who are dressed to mingle safely with the wandering ghosts? Did you carve any lanterns in honor of the lost soul of Stingy Jack? Will you catch a few flies in your pastry and bake them up crisp? God I love Halloween. Happy ghouling!

Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts with Spiced Chocolate Glaze

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Clearly, I’m a little late with my first October recipe. We were out of town for three weeks in September and the early part of October, which is a crazy time to be away from your bed (and your kitchen). We’re back now, though, just in time for the chilly weather, which means more incentive for staying in and baking! Also, even though the cold weather is hitting a little early this year, October is still my absolute favorite month for a lot of reasons: 1) It’s family history month 2) Our anniversary is this month! 3) Halloween!!! and 4) Pumpkin everything!!!

Obviously, we have PSLs now, but pumpkins themselves have been an important part of the North American diet for much longer. Pumpkins are a fruit native to the Americas. Seeds of the pumpkin family dating back to between 7000 and 5500 BC have been found in Mexico. In the beginning they were probably used to store items, due to their hearty exterior, but the pumpkin’s high nutritional value and the edibleness of the entire fruit (even the stem) meant it became an important food source. It is thought that about 10,000 years ago, pumpkins, as well as other varieties of squash, were on the verge of extinction. Luckily, the people of the time valued pumpkins enough to domesticate them, which likely led to their survival. Pumpkin, calabeza in Spanish, is still important ingredient in Mexican cuisine too, with dishes from mole to calabeza en tacha, or candied pumpkin, being created using every part of the pumpkin from the flower, to the pepitas, to the flesh.

The name pumpkin is derived from the Greek word for “large melon,” pepon. This changed to “pompon” in French (France became early importers of pumpkins from North America), then into “pumpion” in England, which eventually became the modern word “pumpkin”.

For us in the U.S., pumpkins are associated with autumn, and particularly Thanksgiving. They were likely part of the first Thanksgiving dinner, but probably as a savory dish, instead of the pumpkin pie we are used to today.  Pumpkins, already a staple in the diets of the Wampanoag at the time, were vital to the colonists, who likely wouldn’t have survived winter without them (and many didn’t–by the time of the first Thanksgiving dinner in 1621, more than half of the original colonists had died of starvation or disease).

Sweet pumpkin pies were likely first made in England with pumpkins imported from the States, then adopted by the colonists. France was an early importer of the fruit and recipes for sweet pies date to as early as the 1650’s in France. The earliest recipe for “pumpion pye” in England dates to Hannah Woolley’s The Gentlewoman’s Companion, from 1675.

In the United States, more than 50 million pumpkin pies are consumed during the Thanksgiving holiday, and there is a good chance that the pumpkin you’re eating is from Illinois. Illinois is the top grower of pumpkins in the United States. My friend Jennifer wrote a fascinating piece for Slow Food last year about the Dickinson squash, the heirloom variety of squash that is used by Libby’s, located in Morton, Illinois, for their canned pumpkin puree.

For my recipe today, I decided not to go with a traditional pumpkin pie, but to make pumpkin doughnuts instead. I love doughnuts. LOVE them. But I have noticed, in my early thirties, that I can no longer chow down on fried foods the way that I once did because I get heartburn. (Hi, I’m 100 years old.) With that in mind, these doughnuts are baked, which does mean you have to buy a doughnut pan, but also means you don’t have to deal with doughnut frying clean-up so… win?

Pumpkin Doughnuts

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Baked Spiced Pumpkin Donuts with Cinnamon Chocolate Glaze
Makes 12 doughnuts.

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground clove
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp unsalted butter, browned

For chocolate glaze:
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
8 oz. chopped semi-sweet chocolate
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cayenne powder, optional

Instructions:

Move a rack to the top 2/3 of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, coriander, and clove. Set aside.

In a small skillet or saucepan, heat 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter until browned. You’ll know it’s done when it’s changed in color, it smells nutty, and it has stopped “popping”. Allow to cool.

In a large bowl, beat the buttermilk and egg together thoroughly. Stir in the pumpkin puree. Stir in only 2 tablespoons of the browned butter.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and stir until everything is just combined. Don’t overmix, or your doughnuts could come out chewy.

Lightly grease two 6-doughnut pan, fill each indentation 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 4 minutes, turn pan 180 degrees, and continue to bake for 4 more minutes.

Allow the doughnuts to rest in the pan for about 5 minutes, before removing to a cooling rack. Repeat with additional batter.

To make glaze, heat the whipping cream until it’s just starting to steam, but not yet boil.

Put the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl, and pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, then mix the chocolate into the cream until full combined.

Add the cinnamon, and cayenne if you don’t mind a little spice.

Dip the bottom half of each doughnut into the bowl, twisting until it is covered by chocolate.

Enjoy!

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Warning: You will be tempted to eat all of these doughnuts straight from the oven, before they’ve properly cooled, and before you glaze them. While you won’t be disappointed because the doughnuts are pretty great on their own, I highly suggest you try them with the glaze. Pumpkin-chocolate is a genius combination, maybe because both ingredients originated from the same area? On top of that, these doughnuts are not only scrumptious, they are essentially Halloween-colored. And I’m a big proponent of delicious foods, color-coordinated with my favorite holidays. I hope you are too. Happy October, and happy baking!

Baked Yeast Doughnuts with Matcha Cream and Chocolate Ganache

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Happy Halloween! It is my most favorite of holidays. I can’t wait to see all of the little kiddos running up and down the block in their costumes. And it’s supposed to be a beautiful day, so they won’t have to deal with any jackets over their costumes, cramping their style.

Let me start by getting something off my chest. Look, it’s really great that the Cubs went to the World Series. It’s been a long time coming, and Chicago is all aflutter with baseball fever. My biggest problem with it is that I live about two blocks from Wrigley Field (for reasons I still can’t explain), and we were basically trapped inside our apartment on Saturday, when we were supposed to be at Weegee’s Lounge, rocking out Twin Peaks-style. We had our outfits all picked out: We were going to be Nadine and Big Ed Hurley from Twin Peaks. (It was perfect because Alex looks so much like Big Ed, and I really wanted to wear an eye patch.) But alas, it was instead Game 4 of the World Series and I had settle for watching on TV and, because of a slight delay, hearing the crowds cheer slightly before I could see what had happened. Bummer. But they’re still in it! Good job, Cubbies!

Let’s get back to the doughnuts, shall we?

Unless I’m far sneakier than I thought, you probably noticed that these are baked doughnuts. Not only that, they aren’t even baked cake doughnuts. They are yeast doughnuts, allowed to rise, then baked to soft, but chewy, perfection. What I was going for was “little clouds of heaven, filled with decadent cream and topped with silky ganache.” These are pretty close. Frying things in my home just totally bums me out. I have to watch the glug-glug-glug of the gallon (!!) of oil going into the pan. Frying at home to me is liking watching a hot dog be made: I want the end product, but for the love of God, don’t show me how it’s done. If you have to, you can fry these. Seriously, though, it’s such a pain and these are delicious, so why bother? Plus, you can do as I did and tell people that they’re good for them because they aren’t fried and you’ll only be kind of a bad friend for it.

I’m also baking, instead of frying, as part of King Arthur Flour’s #bakeforgood campaign. October is Bake For Good month. During October (you have one day left!), if you pledge to bake for others, you can receive a coupon for $0.75 off a 5 lb. bag of King Arthur Flour, plus King Arthur will donate the cost of one meal to Feeding America. Everyone wins! If you’re interested in making a last-minute pledge, you can learn more about that here.

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Baked Donuts with Matcha Cream and Chocolate Ganache

Doughnut Ingredients:
2 1/1 tsp active dry yeast (1 package)
1 cup whole milk
3 1/2 cups flour, plus more to roll out dough
1/4 cup sugar, plus a pinch
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs, beaten
4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract

Matcha Pastry Cream Ingredients (I followed this recipe from The Kitchn and added matcha):
1 cup whole milk
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large egg yolks
1 tbsp matcha powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate Ganache Ingredients:
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate (chips or a chocolate bar)
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 tsp vanilla
3/4 tsp of espresso powder (optional)

Instructions:
In a small bowl, mix the packet of yeast, warm water, and pinch of sugar together until frothy. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, additional sugar, and salt. In a separate medium bowl, combine the vanilla, eggs, and melted butter. Then add the yeast mixture to the large bowl of dry ingredients, then immediately add the wet mixture. Stir until just combined. The dough will be sticky.

On a well-floured surface, knead the dough for about 5 minutes. Then place in well-oiled bowl and cover with a clean towel. Allow the dough to rise for about two hours.

While dough is rising, make your pastry cream. Begin by combining one cup of milk, with 1/2 cup heavy cream. Heat until you just starts to steam. It should not be boiling.

While milk is heating, combine sugar, flour, and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Mix well. Add in four egg yolks and mix until very well combined. Add matcha powder and thoroughly combine.

Set a large bowl with a strainer over it next to your cooking space.

When the milk is done heating. Slowly add a small amount of the milk to the egg mixture in the bowl. Whisk together thoroughly. Continue to add the remaining milk to the bowl, while whisking continuously. You can add the milk in small amounts and and incorporating the milk completely each time, if that’s easier. The mixture should look frothy at this point.

Add the mixture back into the sauce pan over medium heat. Stir continuously until the mixture begins to thicken. When the mixture is done, it will look thicker than pudding and large bubbles will appear at the surface, if you stop whisking for a few seconds.

Pour the mixture into the strainer over the bowl and whisk in the strainer until almost all of the mixture is into the bowl. The strainer will catch any clotted bits.

As the mixture is cooling, either whisking or using a hand mixer, whip the remaining heavy cream in a separate bowl, until peaks form.

When the pastry cream mixture is still warm, but not hot, fold in the whipped cream and stirring to combine thoroughly. If you notice any bits of egg or matcha as you’re stirring in whipped cream, strain the mixture once more.

Cover the mixture with plastic wrap, completely covering the top of the cream, with the plastic wrap directly touching the surface. Otherwise, the cream will develop a skin.

Refrigerate until needed. Remove from refrigerator approximately 10 minutes before using.

When your dough is done rising: On a well-floured surface, roll the dough out to about 1/2-inch in thickness. Using a 3-inch biscuit cutter, cut out about 12-18 doughnuts, re-rolling any unused dough scraps until it’s gone. Place on two parchment paper-covered, floured, baking sheet. Cover with a clean dishtowel and allow to rise for another 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place doughnuts in the oven for about 8-9 minutes. (Even when fully-cooked, the doughnuts will not brown the way that they would if they were fried.)

While the doughnuts are cooling. Heat the the heavy cream over a double boiler, or in the microwave, just until it begins to steam. Add chocolate, vanilla, and espresso powder. Stir until glossy. Set aside to cool slightly before using.

When the doughnuts have cooled to warm, use a chopstick or small steak knife to poke a hole in the side of the doughnut, turning slightly to create space within the doughnut. Be sure not to poke all the way through the other side.

Fill a plastic bag with a cake decorating tip in the corner through the corner of a plastic bag with matcha cream. Work the tip into the doughnut hole and begin filling with cream, slowly removing the bag as the cream fills the doughnut. Repeat for each doughnut.

Take each doughnut and swirl the top of the doughnut lightly over the surface of the ganache. Allow to set for a few minutes before eating. Repeat for each doughnut.

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Can we talk about how perfect these are for Halloween? With their dark ganache and green filling, I’ve been calling them my “witch donuts.” Speaking of Halloween, I’d like to give a very special happy birthday shout-out to my dear friend Kaitlyn, who is lucky enough to have a Halloween birthday! Way to be born, girl! You’re the best!

I hope you all have a spooky day! Seriously, get scared. See a ghost or something. It’s Halloween.

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